This March, the first IMAGINE IF! local competition was organized in Belgrade in cooperation with the Science Technology Park Belgrade, Health Tech Lab, and Innovation Forum Cambridge. The second-placed team, Easy Tech, led by Igor Sužnjević and Nikola Krstić, was mentored by HTEC’s Head of Hardware and Embedded Engineering, Srdjan Jovanović.
This year’s competition focused exclusively on healthcare startups, including new or different types of therapies, devices, diagnostics, platform technology, digital health intelligence or data and other related topics.
Mentored by Srdjan, Easy Tech presented their advanced glove for people with impaired vision, Anora. The glove uses vibration to inform the user of nearby objects, while sound alerts offer information about colors and light conditions in the room.
Nikola came up with the idea to create a product which would help people with impaired vision while still in high school, and he presented it at a student entrepreneurship competition. With Igor’s help, he created an intelligent glove with a set of advanced functions and went on to do the testing with the blind by using distance sensors, and a vibromotor on a protoboard. Together, they admitted that their biggest challenge was obtaining the parts for the glove and deciding where to pitch their idea. These problems were to an extent solved once they won a city competition and as a reward received the funds for the equipment for their workshop and some of the sensors. A year ago, they found their home at the Science Technology Park Belgrade, and a part of the Incubator. As Easy Tech they continued developing their product and competing, and, among other recognitions, won the Sarajevo Unlimited Competition in the international group. So far, they have made six gloves which are currently being tested on 20 people.
The whole story actually developed quite quickly, Nikola recalls, “The entire development cycle, from brainstorming and our first official meeting to the first prototype and up to this moment, took around a year and a half, almost two years.” Although it all started with only two of them, Nikola in charge of the tech part, and Igor as the business developer, they admit that the support and mentorship provided by the team of experts from Mihajlo Pupin Institute Belgrade and HTEC Group were extremely valuable and will be for the future development of the product.
IMAGINE IF! Is a global mentoring programme which offers young innovators a chance to compete for non-dilutive funding that will allow them to take their ventures to the next level with the support from professionals from their area of expertise. This is the first truly global competition and pre-acceleration program for healthcare science ventures. The Innovation Forum also offers the opportunity to clean-tech companies (and other science-based ventures not focused on healthcare) to participate in IMAGINE IF!, but only at the local level.
IMAGINE IF! was an amazing opportunity for Easy Tech, as it included workshops regarding royalties and leadership, among other things, and preparations for video pitch presentations, supported by the professionals from the relevant area of expertise. “Working directly with Srdjan, we learned more about working with investors, how design could be improved, what his experience with product development is and how that can help us predict potential problems we were until then unaware of, and how to approach partners and work on our cooperation and communication skills,” said Igor. Their plan, for now, is to work on the electronic, design and component improvements, as well as to focus more on testing, and consider how their idea can be verified and marketed. In the period to come, HTEC will be offering technical mentorship for their project, where Srdjan’s expertise and the experience of his HTEC embedded engineering team will again come as invaluable.
*Image source: Science Technology Park Belgrade